Rewrites continue on Stormcaller. I’ve gotten great feedback from several people (Thank you!) thus far. As a writer, I can already see where I’ve improved over previous works. As fond as I am of Antigone’s Fall, it’s apparent that Stormcaller is a stronger novel. While I’m not willing to totally attribute that to Erin Evans’s “Outline! Outline! Outline!” dictate, I must admit that knowing vaguely where the story was supposed to go made writing it easier.
Revisions, on the other hand, never seem easy.
The more I learn about the art and science of writing, the more I loathe myself during the revision process. Crutch words, passive voice, adverbs, and the like leap out at me and bludgeon me senseless. Typos don’t bother me because that’s just fast fingers talking, but weak-ass words like had, felt, and was shame me into wanting a Drain-o colada or three.
While revisions aren’t a fun part of the writing process, they’re where your real vision of the work comes to life. First drafts are just shite because you’re simply getting the words and ideas down on paper/dataspace. In your mind, however, even the first draft is epic because it’s the first time your idea came to life. You’ve got to shove those fuzzy feelings aside (to make room for gloom and self-hatred) and get down to the real work.
How to Revise a Novel
1. Take a break. Nothing clears your eyes like time and distance. If possible, get alpha readers to read a (cleaned up) first draft to look for stuff you can’t see anyway.
1a. Engage your brain elsewhere. Play a video game, draw something, fix something.
2. During the first re-read, just make notes. Don’t fix anything. Also, don’t keep alcohol nearby. You can’t afford to drink that much yet.
2a. Keep alcohol nearby anyway.
3. Hit the crutch words first. Unnecessary use of force on crutch words is authorized.
4. Hit the passive voice. Several times. Frankly, run through The 10% Solution, by Ken Rand. Then wipe your tears away and keep working.
5. If you’re fortunate enough to get feedback from people, consider their comments and questions. Adjudicate them. Maybe you’ll incorporate them, maybe not, but at the very least it’ll help identify areas in need of clarification (I never knew Mr. Darcy was the original pilot of the Black Lion! –”Pride and Prejudice and Voltron” (Seriously, it would rock!))
6. Resolve your hints, questions, and mysteries. If you’re not going to resolve them, tease them up, but make clear that you’re exploring those at a later date.
7. Check your logics. Of course it makes sense to you–you’re the bloody author. Did you explain everything to your reader?
8. Punch up your beginning. Make it tight. Tighter. Cinch it up so it can’t breathe…and neither can the editor reading that first page.
9. Know when to say when. Perhaps you’ve done all you can at this time. Perhaps it’s ready to go. Don’t keep polishing it forever. If you can’t think of anything else, start querying. If you think it’s not ready, set it aside, but come back to it later. Someone told me once (the Internet) that the primary hindrance to publication is fear of submission.
I’d add that you should keep a running list of anyone who gives you help, offers their time, or feedback. I believe acknowledgements are important and a good writer isn’t afraid to admit they had a lot of help.
Work on Stormcaller‘s been my second job for the past few months. I’m hoping to finish these revisions in May…and start submitting it. I’m not going to lie, the idea terrifies me. Now I have to sell the book, a completely different process, but it’s the next step in my professional development.
I can’t wait.